Sarah R

From One Mom to Another: Breastfeeding Tips

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Let’s talk breastfeeding! I’ve been so excited for this week’s topic, thought likely not for the reasons that many would assume. I feel passionately about being supportive of whatever choice a parent makes on how they feed their child. Something that has always horrified me is how so many women (and men!) seem to think that it is their duty to shame other parents for their choices. A parent’s decision to breastfeed, formula feed, or use donor milk has always been an issue for so many people, and everyone seems to think they have the right to weigh in on things. I couldn’t not disagree more. A parent’s choice on how they choose to feed their baby is a personal decision and one that should be respected, regardless of the choice they land on. I should also mention that for many, their decision is not a choice that they made independently; some options just may not have been possible. Whew! Now that that is out of the way…the following is my personal breastfeeding journey, along with some things that made our experience easier.

The Hospital

Breastfeeding is bizzare at first, since both you and your newborn are learning the hang it. Mamas-take advantage of every moment in that hospital! Use those nurses and lactation consultants! After giving birth, we were fortunate enough that Ellie was a willing nurser and that my milk came in with relative ease (at least for those two days...more on that in a minute). But I was so NERVOUS! Was I holding her correctly? Was she getting enough? Those nurses worked their magic and helped so much while we tried to figure things out. They gave suggestions for positioning and even helped manipulate both Ellie’s and my body to make things work a bit better. As hard as it can sound, really letting go and allowing the professionals to do their jobs and help in whatever way they can makes a huge difference.

Going Home

My name is Sarah and I have an oversupply problem. My milk, while normal in the hospital, came in with a vengeance. My breasts became the most painful boulders and were difficult for Ellie to latch on to. They were leaking constantly, and I was uncomfortable to the point of tears. Two things I did that were helpful was calling a lactation consultant and calling one of my best friends, whose daughter was a few months older than Ellie.

My pal Alyssa and I joke that nothing is too much for our friendship after she came over that day. I was sitting in the middle of my living room topless, crying, and leaking. She showed me why my breast pump wasn’t working (those darn little phalanges!) and she also brought over her hand pump for me to try. She was also SUPPORTIVE. It’s amazing how much better I felt after she assured me that after two weeks, things would be so much better. She was such a terrific cheerleader, reminding me of how I made this choice for my family and was giving such a gift to my daughter. If you become overwhelmed or frustrated, please take advantage of built in resources of pals who have walked this path before you-they are rockstars!

Our healthcare system really does fail breastfeeding moms (most consultants are not covered by insurance unless they’re affiliated with an OB-GYN’s office) but in my experience, paying for a lactation consultant ($250 for a certified consultant to come to my home) was well worth it. Our consultant came directly to our home, confirmed that I was struggling with oversupply, checked our positioning, made adjustments as needed, and overall gave us some peace of mind. She weighted Ellie prior to and after nursing, so we had a sense of how much milk she was getting during a feeding. She also made recommendations to even out my supply and when to start pumping/bottle feeding.

Getting into the Groove

After Ellie and I got the hang of breastfeeding, things went smoothly for us. I say that with a heart full of gratitude, as I know so many women experience supply issues, latch issues, postpartum health issues, etc. That being said, I also made choices that were based on what I felt would work best for us both, not necessarily what was recommended by experts. For example, I began pumping a few days after giving birth rather than waiting 5-6 weeks. I became anxious of losing my supply, so for me, beginning to pump and store milk right away helped alleviate anxiety I had about creating a freezer stash. I also chose to pump right away as my husband Steve was eager to experience feeding our daughter as well. There are mixed reviews on introducing bottles very early on, but after getting the go-ahead from our pediatrician, we moved forward and never looked back!

I was very fortunate that I did not experience mastitis but I have watched other mama pals struggle with this and ladies, please please please do NOT wait to call your doctor if you recognize some of the symptoms. This sickness can knock you out and can really alter things for you and your babe long term, as it can hurt your supply, etc.

Time’s Up?

I had a goal of nursing Ellie for 6 months. When that time frame rolled around, I surprised myself by not feeling ready to stop breastfeeding. Then, around 8 months, my supply took a HUGE hit. Ellie and I both got sick at the same time and I was producing only 1-1.5 ozs each time I pumped, when I was used to producing 5-8 oz. I began to agonize over how much I was pumping, charting my supply, frantically trying things to boost it back up. Then Steve stepped in and asked me if the stress I was feeling over continuing to nurse was worth it, from a mental health perspective. I realized that if I was obsessing to this degree over breastfeeding, that it was likely time for us to stop. While the transition to ending this period of time was a bit sad for me, in a week, I already felt better about the decision and now, months later, it’s not something I regret.

Helpful Items

Nipple cream, sleep bras meant for nursing, a good pump,

Kindness

However you choose to feed your babe, be kind to yourself. It is a beautiful gift to be able to provide nourishment for your child (whatever the method!) and this time is so special. Please try not to beat yourself up over issues (lip ties, supply problems, baby gassiness, etc.) and instead remember that you are doing the very best job that you can do in this moment with the resources you have.

-Sarah

Mental Health

Mental health is one of the most polarizing and controversial topics in today’s society. Having a child, especially a newborn, can push you to the limit in so many ways (hello, relationship shifts, lack of showering, and utter exhaustion!) so it is especially important to pay attention to how your emotional status is changing on a day to day (ok, minute to minute) basis. I want to preface the remainder of this conversation with the understanding that every perspective is unique to your own experiences and mental health journey. I am in no way a mental health professional, and these thoughts are simply ideas that I have found helpful and wanted to share with you in the spirit of community!

Talk about it

As someone who has struggled with moderate anxiety for the past 10 years, I was (shocking, I know) very nervous about how becoming a parent would affect my overall mental health. I had just gotten to a point where I was using strategies to effectively cope with anxiety in a positive way,  and now I was looking at quite possibly the biggest life change I’d ever undertake...I should also mention I find change (even wonderful, wanted change) very difficult! One thing I found very helpful was talking to my husband and mother about my concerns before the birth of my daughter. I asked them both to be on the lookout for major shifts in my emotional wellbeing and to advocate for me at a time when I might not be able to advocate for myself.

Do some research

Another thing I found hugely helpful was researching the typical symptoms of anxiety, depression, and postpartum depression. I wanted to know what I should be keeping my eyes open for and also what warning signs I should be sharing with those closest to me. I was so surprised to learn that postpartum anxiety can manifest itself as being extremely quick to anger-and man, oh man, did I experience that! The National Institute of Mental Health can be a good starting point and gives quick and clear overviews on anxiety, depression, and postpartum depression that can be useful.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

There is such a stigma surrounding mental health. Our bodies are amazing (hello, creating and giving birth to a HUMAN!), but just like your bones and organ systems, your brain and mental health are susceptible to experiencing difficulty at times and it is so important to take that first step and seek help when you may need a “tune up.” And while I know it’s easier said than done, if you or a loved one suspect you may be suffering, taking that first step and reaching out to a doctor is key. Help also can come in the form of asking for or seeking out other supports. Many moms have found that a postpartum doula has been a lifesaver and other moms struggling with things like breastfeeding have found seeking out professional support to be beneficial for their overall mental wellbeing.

Use your resources

Parenthood puts a strain on just about every resource you may have: emotional, physical, mental, and financial. Making good choices about how you allocate those resources can help ease some of the strain. There’s the old adage, “Sleep when the baby sleeps!” But, if running a load of laundry while you watch an episode of Real Housewives or sneaking out for a manicure is a better use of your “resources” and makes you feel a bit more human, then go for it, mama! My husband and I also divide up household and home maintenance tasks/errands between the two of us and try and squeeze in as many things as we can during the week, leaving us with more time to spend to spend together on the weekends, rather than racing around. We also made a clear plan to give ourselves some independent downtime and budgeted to fund some fun activities. It’s certainly not the same as it was pre-parenthood, but I do find we’re also more appreciative of these things now then we were before, and it certainly improves our overall mental health.

Be kind to yourself

When I first sought professional help for my anxiety, the one thing I will never forget was my therapist saying the following phrase: “You just ‘should’ all over yourself!” Her point was that so many things that factored into blocking my mental wellbeing were things I was putting in place. Once I began to be a bit kinder to myself and not have as many “shoulds” in my mind (“I should be able to handle this…” or “I shouldn’t get this upset over…”), my emotional mental health was in a much better place. So every time you start to beat yourself up...don’t! You are a wonderful and valuable human being, but you can make mistakes and that’s ok, mama!

Parenthood is a tough, amazing, beautiful journey, but we are our best selves when we take care of our mental health. I cannot stress enough that I am not a professional, and that mental health is a deeply personal issue, but I hope that these thoughts have resonated with you! Thank you, as always, for reading!

My Favorite Baby Gear

Hey mamas! This week we’ll be talking about some of my favorite products for little ones. I want to preface this by saying that I HATE baby gear-truly, I hate clutter of all varieties and my husband can attest to the fact that nothing makes me happier than purging our possessions and getting rid of things we don’t love or use frequently. I know the usual rule of thumb is if you haven’t used it in 6 months, get rid of it; I prefer to use a 2 month rule, seasonal items notwithstanding. What we have in our home are products that are used regularly and are fairly neutral in design. Something to also keep in mind is that every babe and family is different and has their own set of preferences and needs but these are the hands-down the best products that we’ve used for our family.

Feeding:

This is such a tricky area to make recommendations, as things are so individualized to you and your baby’s needs. One thing that we found to be very helpful was the Boon Grass drying rack. We’ve used it since the beginning and are still going strong with it 18 months in! I love that it looks a bit more fun than most drying racks-if it’s going to sit on my counter for two years, I want to like how it looks! A few other items that worked for us were the Tommee Tippee bottles and soft lid cups (not a million parts, easy to wash, and never gave her gas!), and the Munchkin 360 cups.

Sleeping/Clothing:

One product I found to be very helpful isn’t exactly a “baby product” but I highly recommend reading Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. The section on “The Pause” was so helpful to read when we were working on establishing healthy sleep habits with Ellie. We are also huge fans of Petit Pehr swaddles; the muslin is so soft and stretchy (perfect for creating baby burritos!) and the prints are fantastic. When we found out we were expecting our new babe, this was one of the items I immediately ordered, along with some new Petit Pehr crib sheets. Our nursery is predominantly neutral colors, but these fun sheets gave the nursery a bit of a playful pop.

In terms of clothing, I’ll try to be brief but wanted to share those items that we’ve loved and would buy again and again. The Gap has most adorable knit Garter Collection sweaters. These beauties hold up wonderful after multiple washes and work well for little boys and girls. I always imagine that I’ll end up saving one for each of my children to pass down to their little ones one day. I have the same thought towards the Freshly Picked moccasins. While a little pricey, they stay on your babes feet easily and are just such a great basic shoe for both babies and young walkers. Hanna Andersson pajamas are also a favorite in our house. These jammies are excellent quality, super soft, hold up beautifully after many cycles through the wash and come in my favorite style-stripes!

Something I’d recommend investing in is a Patagonia down sweater. Steve gave me the hardest time in spending the money for this item but it was so worth it. After a winter of playing outside, this jacket looks just as good as the day we got it. We plan on purchasing these in gender-neutral colors and having each of our children get some wear out of them.

My last favorite items for Ellie have been her L.L.Bean fleece jacket, as well as her very own L.L.Bean slippers made from the same material as the popular Wicked Good slippers. These shearling beauties are so toasty and the rubber sole was terrific for her, especially when she was just learning to walk.

Play:

It is so easy to get carried away with purchasing every toy imaginable for your little ones, but I really don’t have too many recommendations in this area. Ellie loved playing with some traditional toys like the Fisher Price stacking cups and rings, but one thing she got the biggest kick out of was the Munch Mitt. This little glove-like toy is capped with a food-grade silicone top that babies LOVE to chew on and the mitt design allows them (ok, you!) to not worry about dropping it over and over again. Anything made by Bannor Toys has also gotten a lot of love in our house. These heirloom quality wooden toys can also be personalized and not only are beautiful and durable but make great gifts for friends and family when they bring home a new babe.

Gear:

Like every girl who wasn’t the first to have a baby among their close group of friends, when I initially registered for a stroller, I stole recommendations from my mama pals who had done all the research. We wound up with the Britax B Agile & B Safe 35 Travel System. I was perfectly happy with this set up...until I got pregnant again. Now my suggestion for new moms is to register for a stroller that can convert to a double! We recently purchased the Baby Jogger City Select and man-oh-man, am I in love! This stroller is fantastic because of it’s in-line set up (hello, aisles of Target that I can easily fit down!), ability to handle easily (because what mother honestly has two free hands to push a stroller?), and it’s flexibility configurations and in fitting an infant car seat along with toddler seats. The City Select also has converter clips for almost every major car seat which is so helpful!

Another mama hack I couldn’t live without is babywearing. While I know this is certainly subject not only to your preferences but also your child’s, I highly suggest giving it a try a few different time. I started wearing Ellie in the Solly baby wrap (so soft, so stretchy, perfect for brand new babes) and while she wasn’t super happy the first few times I wore her, by the end of the first week, she was snoozing away in the wrap, giving me more time to use both of my hands. Once she was around three months, I switched to using a Wildbird ring sling. Mamas, purchase one of these beauties at your own risk as they are highly addictive! The simplicity of the ring sling design (so easy to get on and off) and the gorgeousness of the breathable linen material is why I prefer slinging to a more traditional structured carrier. That being said, if a carrier is more your bag, I highly recommend checking out Happy Baby and Lillebaby carriers-they have excellent reviews and come in the cutest prints.

Now for my all-time favorite baby/toddler product-the Ciao Baby high chair. Steve and I joke all the time that we should be brand ambassadors, due to the number of times we’ve been asked about this amazing chair when we’ve been out and about. This collapsible high chair is made much like a camp chair and folds neatly into its fabric case for easy travel. The plastic coated tray section is easily wiped down and can be used not only for feeding but also as an on-the-go playstation. Ellie has used this since she was five months old and we actually used it yesterday when we took her to get ice cream. It goes with us quite literally everywhere (on vacation, out to dinner, to Grandma’s house) and is such a terrific product, especially since the market doesn’t really offer anything quite like it.

I hope that this post was helpful but want to end with this thought: borrow! Borrow any and all baby items that you can, to try things out and see what works for you and your little one. Then invest in items that you feel will get a lot of use and hold up well through multiple children.

If you have any other items that you have loved for your family, please, please, please share them in the comments below!

 

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Meet Sarah R.

My name is Sarah R. and I am a 31-year-old working mama who lives in Connecticut and I am thrilled to be able to connect with you mamas here on The Bundle of Joy Blog! My husband and I have been married for almost three years and have a sweet, spirited (ok, strong willed!) 18-month-old daughter, Ellie, who we adore. I work as a high school special education teacher at my former high school and, while it can be a bit awkward  having my former teachers as colleagues, I really do enjoy what I do! I also work with middle and high school students through two youth theater programs and this serves as a great creative outlet…though I’m not sure how continuing to do these things will work after our second babe joins us this fall!

I’d rather clean than cook and, luckily, married someone who has the opposite preferences. Otherwise, we might be surviving exclusively on take out! My husband, Steve, and I met playing bar trivia with mutual friends, and after a group ski trip and some nudging, we started dating. Steve is my saving grace, not only as a person, but especially as a mother. He is my partner in all things, from caring for our daughter, making dinner, taking care of the house and yard, etc. My second pregnancy hasn’t left me feeling so great, and he has been my hero in helping everything to run smoothly while reassuring me that I am not a complete failure.

After we were married, I had a lot of anxiety surrounding starting a family. After watching friends struggle with infertility heartbreak, I was convinced that getting pregnant would be difficult for us too. . However, much to our surprise (read: shock), we got pregnant very quickly and I had a wonderful pregnancy with Ellie. She joined us in November 2016, after a labor that left me feeling strong, in-tune with my body and with her, and showered in love. To the expecting first time mamas-every mother’s labor is different, challenging, and beautiful in its own way, but I can assure you that a wonderful labor and delivery can happen; In fact, I’d relive that day over and over again if I could!

Ellie was an easy infant who slept and breastfed like a champ, and just as we started to believe she had inherited her dad’s easy-going and mellow disposition…she turned one! She is now a hilarious, opinionated, little girl with a big personality and is truly the greatest joy in our lives. She adores other children, is very inquisitive, and is currently quite interested in going to “sit” and read a book or go “ouuusiiiide” to see if there are birds or flowers in the yard. I’ll be honest and say that while Steve and I can’t wait to welcome our newest addition this fall, there is a big part of me that feels a bit sad that this time as a cozy family of three is coming to an end. In this spirit, I’m focusing on making wonderful memories with our girl this summer before she becomes a big sister and our hearts double in size.

Motherhood is the wildest ride of all time. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a mama and the day we had Ellie was easily the happiest day of my life. That being said, I never knew I could feel so many conflicted emotions all at once. The fear, guilt, and constant second-guessing of parenthood, mixed in with all that happiness, pride, and love is simultaneously the most difficult and amazing experience of my life. Lifting up and supporting other parents is something I am passionate about, and I am beyond thrilled to be a part of this community.Without a doubt, I can’t wait to share this journey together! XOXO